Author : Tony Taylor
A klaxon blares again in Suda’s ear, dragging him toward consciousness. His groggy eyes strain open to find error messages flooding his helmet’s display. Replaced by fear, the fog of his mind begins to part. A distant scream snaps back into the foreground of his mind, louder with every passing second.
“Suda, wake up!” Fera shouts from behind him.
“I’m back, I’m back,” Suda says, gripping the control stick in front of him. With a wild twist the airframe screams through superheated air. It whips one way and another, tumbling out of control. Small jet streams flare from various locations on the craft, timed with Suda’s movements.
He pushes the throttle forward with zeal. The craft groans and airfoils lift and turn, stabilizing its flight. Suda exhales audibly.
Without a second to rest, a blip appears in the corner of his display. It glares with bright red importance amid a sea of yellow warnings. Before he can read it, a lance of light pierces the sky from above. It darkens the horizon in comparison to its grand brilliance. The plane twists to the side and the beam spears into the sea far below, flash boiling the waters. A mushroom cloud of steam blossoms into the sky.
The airplane spins again in midair, pointing up to the source of the attack, still sliding along its old trajectory. Suda and his copilot are held in their seat by unseen forces as the craft defies physics. In this silent moment, Suda thanks the inertial dampeners, without which they would be red jelly.
“Looks like your plan didn’t work out so well,” Fera spits.
“Shut it,” Suda says. A black, elongated tear drops from a short wing of the aircraft. In a flash of light, it disappears. A bright white cloud rips apart as the device passes through faster than Suda can track it. A blinding light shines through as the explosive hits home and Suda smiles, satisfied with Fera’s abilities yet again.
“Target destroyed,” she reports, “632 remaining.”
“You sound like you don’t have any faith Fera.”
The ships thruster’s unleash a torrent of flames as it streaks away, a blur. “We’ll make it through this.”
The craft makes another abrupt turn. Dozens of beams streak down from the heavens. Suda jerks back and forth, piloting his machine in ways that shouldn’t be possible. Large thrusters burst to life in sequence, flinging it through the air at strange angles and speeds.
“Their targeting isn’t very good through the cloud cover. We should sta-”
Suda flicks a switch, twists his flight stick and works pedals, turning his ship turns toward the sky. As perfect as the craft they fly, Fera senses his intention and takes advantage of the maneuver. A swarm of dark shapes release from the wings, sparkling in the fading light, zipping away toward their targets. The sky ignites, a hundred suns ablaze.
Bucking from the shock wave, the aircraft is reined in once more and forced into a steep climb.
“Not an option at this point.”
The airframe erupts up from the clouds into a wide open sky, painted orange by the lowering star on the horizon. Time slows and Suda appreciates the spectacle, time spread thin by adrenalin.
In the distance, swarms of angry black shapes encircle, hawks waiting for their prey. The spiky black predators begin changing shape and hundreds of bright stars come to life. The predator’s weapons take form.
Suda feels his heart leap into his throat, his fate within reach. He tries to push the words from his clenched larynx but only has time to form the letter s.
For a brief instant a display of fire and light hangs in the sky. Then, the shards of twisted metal and charred flesh rain over the uncaring sea.